Do Business Models Just Happen? For Dopplr It Did

    social atlasDopplr has finally found its gold mine, the aggregate user travel date. Dopplr plans to anonymize and aggregate all the recommendations that have been added to Dopplr over time and selling the information to those who want to know where the worlds most frequent travelers are visiting.

    This will effectively be big part of their business model in addition to the lead generation that has been in place already for a while (see video below). Dopplr aggregates the travel advice and recommendations in what it calls a Social Atlas. Marko Ahtisaari, Dopplr CEO, calls the Social Atlas “pops chart for the cities of the world”, which it really is. In effect Dopplr monetizes recommendations made by friends and like-minded people. Not very much unlike Finnish startup TripSay (see our story here). Dopplr’s model is still easier to see working, because it does not depend on sharing individuals’ insights, just the locations and the times they were visited.

    (video via Informilo)

    There has been a lot of debate about whether one should just build a good service and let the business model happen (think Twitter and Facebook), or whether one should aim to get revenue from day one. This was also among the topics in Sweden where I was just this week moderating a panel on Monetizing Digital Content. Since we entered the down economy, the debate has gotten more intense and more people are arguing for the day one cashflow.

    I don’t know whether Dopplr had planned for this exact model and didn’t just tell us but my guess it they hadn’t. Rather, they decided to let their business model happen. Why I believe this was the case was that they have changed CEO recently and earlier on during the London Seedcamp in 2008 (coincidentially the very day that Lehman Brothers went under) a Dopplr investor Martin Varsavsky admitted to me that they don’t have a business model just yet (see video below). The founders and investors knew that they have a very interesting and useful service, and new that if they can build on that the value can be exactred when the service has grown to an age.Even when there is a business model from the get go, for the more interesting services it always evolves. Thus, even though we do live in down economy and the cash is king, I would not outright kill all the ideas that don’t have an obvious business model from the get go, since those are many times the very services that will be the most interesting and successful (again, think Twitter, Facebook and now Dopplr).

    While you’re at it and if you are already part of Dopplr’s growing user base, do join our ArcticStartup group in Dopplr. Marko also tells us in the video that there’s an iphone app coming in June 2009, which is great news. Currently checking interesting venues let alone adding venues to the service is hard work, but when you can do that easily on the go with iphone I imagine Dopplr will see a spike in usage.